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Comment: Published 1989, softcover. All pages are clean.
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King, Queen, Knave Paperback – July 17, 1989


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st edition (July 17, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780679723400
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679723400
  • ASIN: 0679723404
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #583,340 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Novel by Vladimir Nabokov, first published in Russian in 1928 as Korol, dama, valet. With this novel, Nabokov began his career-long obsession with gamesmanship, word play in several languages, and multiple, surreal images and characterizations. The image of a deck of playing cards is used throughout the novel. Franz, an unsophisticated young man, works in the department store of his rich uncle Dreyer. Out of boredom Martha, the uncle's young wife, seduces Franz. The lovers subsequently plot to drown Dreyer and marry each other. Martha changes her mind abruptly when she learns that an invention by Dreyer stands to increase his wealth, but she then dies suddenly from pneumonia. Her husband never discovers his wife's duplicity. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Russian

Customer Reviews

This is an entertaining novel about a love triangle.
Eric Anderson
Many think this is a lightweight novel, but it was one of Nabokov's favorite - according to the book jacket - and I agree with his choice.
J. Robinson
This book is a veritable masterpiece and a highly entertaining one at that.
2smart4most

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By J. Robinson on February 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
Many think this is a lightweight novel, but it was one of Nabokov's favorite - according to the book jacket - and I agree with his choice. It is a bit similar to Laughter in the Dark, but more humorous. Most of the enjoyment with this book is the discovery of Nabokov's creation. Frankly, I suggest that you skip the reviews here, close your eyes for the moment and simply read the book - the same recommendation that I make for most of his books. Read the comments later.

Vladimir Nabokov (1899 to 1977) is a Russian born writer who went to Cambridge, then lived in western Europe, the US, and finally retired in Switzerland. He has a medium sized body of work with numerous novels, short works, and non-fiction. Most know him for his 1955 creation of Lolita, which he wrote and re-wrote for over twenty years before the final product. It was based on a real life French story, but set in America. He has 20 novels, and I have read about half.

Eleven of Nabokov's novels come from his early European period when he could write in many languages but he wrote his first 11 novels in Russian. This is from that period. It was his second novel and it was published in 1928 as a book, then translated years later.

The story is a love triangle set in Berlin. It is about the 34 year old wife of a 50 year old store owner, and the owner's young nephew. Beyond that, the reader can discover the plot.

It is a very humorous and entertaining a book. Having read many of his novels and most of his best sellers, I thought it was excellent and either a touch short of his best or among the best. It is a matter of taste, but I liked "King, Queen, Knave" and "Laughter in the Dark" as his best works, notwithstanding "Pale Fire" and "Lolita." That latter show more creativity as does "Transparent Things" - as do a few of his other works.

I think it is an excellent and an entertaining read. Some might not think it is among his best novels, but I liked it.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
Nabokov's second novel, his brightest and lightest of the lot, is regarded by some as being one of the weaker links in the author's ouvre.The plot here is pretty banal (a bland, country boy Franz falls in love with the wife of his rich uncle who lives in Berlin and before you know it Franz and his aunt are pathetically planning the murder of the middle-man). Nabokov pokes some fun at the story of Madame Bovary and offers somewhat of a parody. As usual though, the plot here takes backstage to the form and style of writing and Nabokov does not disappoint; the prose is beautiful and enchanting (minus some laughable sexual innuendos and so on) and makes the novel worth reading.While it's far from counting among Nabokov's strongest works, I still enjoyed the book and certain images have and will remain with me (especially the last couple of chapters, filled with the imagery of azure beaches and wide open skies). Nabokov does make an 'appearance' in the novel (a la Hitchcock), along with his wife, as the couple with whom Franz becomes somewhat obsessed at the seaside resort (look for mention of the butterfly net).This is a relatively light and accessible Nabokov read, recommended for shiny summer days.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By 2smart4most on August 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Vladmir Nabakov may be the closest kin in the twentieth century to the magnificent imagination of "The one thousand and one Arabian Nights". Yet this is not entirely an apt comparison, for whereas the "Nights" was a framework in which the dreams were presented as a reality, Nabakov's is a strange world wherein the reality is painted as a lush, evanescent dream. But beware the reader, who thinks this mere clever wordplay, for to read Nabakov is to be entranced into a highly sophisticated web where life is as much a romantic dirge as a brilliant puzzle. King, Queen, Knave was by his own admission, "my gayest novel", and yet there is a kind of sadness here amidst the gaiety and superlative sequence of almost divine juxtapositions that I have only experienced from the likes of a virtuoso rendition of Paganini.
The basic story is a simple love triangle, a rich Uncle, a faux nephew and a cold aunt, and of course involves an illicit affair culminating in a murderous plot. And yet what is not simple is how Nabakov deftly draws these characters, at once ultra real and but also aloof, blatant caricatures of the human soul. Like a pack of playing cards, thinking themselves to be free, but fully boxed in. And it's quite amusingly funny, but Nabakov's humor springs from diverse and often mundane sources - the ambience, the shaggy dog, the inward blindness of his protagonists and situations involving the Uncle and the two lovers where the former is completely unaware that he is being cuckolded right under his canopy. Personally, though, what I find most delightful is the poetic details that N throws in gratuitously everywhere, e.g.- The time when Uncle Dreyer, who is the owner of a large Berlin Department store pays a surprise visit to his nephew and his cohorts who work in the sporting goods dept.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
the attraction of this book is the sense of things to come with regards to the author's future books. whereas "mary", nabokov's first novel, emits a warm autobiographic glow, "king, queen, knave" does an about face to depict a world utterly distant and alien from the author's personal milieux. the result is an abstract world not quite as pure and fantastic as the one created in "lolita", indeed the former pales greatly by comparison, but an abstract world which is nonetheless plausible and artistically pleasing. there are two unforgettable images in this novel. one adumbrates nabokov's penchant for condemning cruelty by having his characters indulge in it, that very cruelty, with inexcusable zest and relish; while the other gives us a taste of the author's wicked sense of humor. they are: marthe's repeated beatings and/or chastisements of tom, the family dog, and the pathetic fate of the monkey, a gift for marthe from dreyer before their marriage, which burns itself trying to light a match. these two images, which are patented nabokov, are just the tip of the iceberg in a body of work abrim with unforgettable images.
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